Media Defence Logo

CLOSE

Open justice victory in Ugandan case

Open justice victory in Ugandan case

On 20 October 2014, the High Court of Uganda ordered that the trial of Ronald Poteri, a police detective accused of leaking secret audio recordings between the Ugandan Inspector General of Police and youths from the ruling National Resistance Movement Party, should be open to journalists and the public.

The High Court quashed an earlier decision by the Chief Magistrate and held that she had acted unreasonably and unfairly in banning all press and public. The Court was particularly critical of the fact that there had been no informed and balanced assessment as to whether the trial should proceed with the public and press excluded, and no consideration had been given to the dangers involved in holding hearings behind closed doors and out of public view. The case has been referred back to the lower courts with the instruction that freedom of expression is to be given appropriate weight in all decisions going forward.

The judgment sets a high standard for open justice in the Ugandan courts and represents a positive move against arbitrary blanket bans on media access to criminal trials. It is of utmost importance that journalists be allowed to attend court hearings, as they are the eyes and ears of the general public who are not able to attend.

Catherine Anite, who represented the Uganda Court Reporters Association, welcomed the outcome as a landmark ruling:

“The High Court has re-emphasised the importance of the media as a watchdog of justice and recognised their vital significance in ensuring that the principle of open justice is observed. The judiciary is obliged to ensure that journalists report court cases to enhance public knowledge and secure their confidence in court processes.”

Recent News

The “Misuse” of the judicial system to attack freedom of expression

UNESCO has released a new report on “The “misuse” of the judicial system to attack freedom of expression”. The report takes an in-depth look at the patterns and challenges surrounding the rise of abusive litigation, and makes a number of recommendations. To mark its release, we explore our own experience tackling legal threats to freedom […]

Read

Russian disinformation: a weapon in its war on Ukraine

Lawmakers, academics and citizens are becoming increasingly aware of the threat posed by disinformation and malinformation. ‘Disinformation’ refers to falsehoods spread deliberately to stoke distrust or promote an agenda. It is a widespread issue, overshadowing elections everywhere from Brazil to the USA, fuelling hate speech, such as in India, and impacting stock prices around the […]

Read

TOHAV & The Fight for Freedom of Expression in Turkey – by Esma Yasar

This article was written by Esma Yasar, a Kurdish lawyer working for Media Defence’s partner organisation TOHAV. Esma Yasar took part in Media Defence’s fellowship programme, which hosts human rights lawyers from our funded partner organisations all over the world. Freedom of Expression and Press Freedom in Turkey Turkey is one of the most restrictive […]

Read